Mattis Matters | Admissions Fraud | Facing the Future of Surveillance

MARCH 13, 2019  /   SUBSCRIBE



“The most radical revolutionary will become a conservative the day after the revolution.”

“The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e., the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e., the standards of thought) no longer exist.”

– Hannah Arendt




Seriously?: Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) announced Monday it was introducing smart cameras that use AI to measure people’s happiness at RTA’s Customer Happiness Centers. The devices have both wireless and Bluetooth connectivity, and can take 30 frames per second from a range of seven meters. A spokesperson said: “The technology analyses the facial expressions of customers, without saving images in respect of their privacy, before and after processing their transactions at the center.” Instant alerts are triggered when a center’s “happiness rating” drops below a predefined level, so that actions can be taken to “restore customers’ happiness level.” Customer Happiness Centers provide services such as vehicle and drivers’ licensing. (CNBC)

Seriously: Facial recognition technology requires hundreds of thousands of images to “learn” how to differentiate facial features. An NYU law professor said: “This is the dirty little secret of AI training sets. Researchers often just grab whatever images are available in the wild.” NBC News obtained an IBM data set used to “train” the technology to learn faces. The set included millions of photos scraped by photo-hosting site Flickr, many without the consent of the subjects. IBM promoted the collection to researchers as a progressive step toward reducing bias in facial recognition. But legal experts and civil rights advocates claim using photos without consent especially endangers minorities, who could be profiled and targeted, since the technology could eventually be used for surveillance purposes. (CNBC)




In His Younger And More Vulnerable Years: The youngest member of Big Bang, the South Korean K-Pop boy band, is leaving the band after being charged with procuring prostitutes for businessmen in some of Seoul’s most fashionable nightclubs. 28-year-old Seungri, nicknamed the Great Gatsby of Korea due to his taste for the high life, announced he will retire to fight the charges and to spare his management agency, YG Entertainment, and fellow band members further embarrassment. Police are also investigating claims that the Burning Sun nightclub, where Seungri was a public relations director, was involved in illegal drug use, sexual assaults and police corruption. Prostitution is illegal in South Korea, and Seungri could face three years in prison if found guilty. He and the owner of the Burning Sun, Lee Moon Ho, have denied the allegations. (Guardian)

IRA Takes Responsibility For Terror Attack: A group calling itself IRA has claimed responsibility for homemade explosive devices sent to three major London transport hubs and Glasgow University last week. IRA involvement was initially suspected since the three packages all had stamps from the Irish Republic, with Dublin as the return address. The packages also were similar to those sent in the past that were linked to dissident groups associated with Northern Ireland-related terrorism. Authorities issued a statement saying the latest message from the group indicated five devices were sent, but at the time of the statement only four had been found. No arrests have been made. (Guardian)




May Can’t Catch A Brexit: In just 17 days the UK is scheduled to leave the EU. In one more effort to get a positive vote on an exit agreement from members of parliament, Prime Minister Theresa May wrangled last minute reassurances from the EU27 on Monday. Then before Tuesday’s vote, with her voice cracked and fading, May pleaded with the House of Commons, saying: “This is the moment and this is the time – time for us to come together, back this motion and get the deal done.” Despite her impassioned plea, May suffered a second humiliating defeat Tuesday evening after the Democratic Unionist party (DUP) said it could not support the agreement, and MPs voted it down 391 to 242.

May’s first loss was in January, when a record majority of 230 rejected her painstakingly negotiated exit deal with the EU. This time a number of Conservatives did switch sides, fearing Brexit would be delayed or reversed if they didn’t support the agreement, but it was not enough to win. Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn said his party would now press for a softer Brexit. “I look forward to parliament taking back control so that we can succeed where this government has so blatantly failed,” he said.

MPs will now vote Wednesday on whether the UK should leave the EU on March 29 without a deal. The PM said it would be a free vote; i.e. she will not dictate to her party members how they should vote. A vote against a no-deal Brexit would most likely require extending the departure date, and that vote will come Thursday. After Tuesday’s defeat May said: “Let me be clear. Voting against leaving without a deal and for an extension does not solve the problems we face. The E.U. will want to know what use we will make of such an extension.” Additional read: France Gets a Taste of Post-Brexit Mayhem (NYT, $)




Admissions Fraud: On Tuesday Massachusetts federal prosecutors charged 50 people with engaging in a nationwide scheme to buy spots in freshman classes at a number of elite colleges and universities, including Yale, Stanford, USC, Georgetown, Wake Forest and UT Austin. 33 of the defendants were wealthy parents, Hollywood celebrities and prominent business leaders determined to guarantee their children admittance into a highly competitive school. 12 other individuals, including top college athletic directors and coaches, and SAT and ACT test administrators, were indicted under the RICO act for engaging in a racketeering conspiracy.

At the center of the Justice Department’s largest ever college admissions prosecution was William Singer, founder of a for-profit college preparatory business in Newport Beach, CA called the Edge College and Career Network (The Key), and its non-profit arm, Key Worldwide Foundation (KWF). Singer used The Key and KWF to help students cheat on standardized tests and to pay bribes to coaches who could help students get into college with fake athletic credentials. Singer appeared in a Boston federal court Tuesday afternoon and pleaded guilty to racketeering, money laundering, defrauding the US and obstruction of justice. Prosecutors said more indictments were coming. (NYT) Additional read: “An Important Message About Today’s News Involving Stanford Admissions.” (Stanford Alumni)




Mattis Matters: An in-depth interview with a host of former senior military officers and national security experts provides the dispositive answer to these two questions: Is President Donald Trump fit to be Commander in Chief? Should Americans be worried? Last year’s resignation of Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis was notable for two reasons: (1) he is the first defense secretary to resign in protest over fundamental disagreements with his commander in chief, and (2) the critique itself of his boss, and the belief by many stewards of US national security that largely explains why America and the alliance of free peoples that it professes to lead feel so dangerously unstable right now, with worse very likely to come. The issues raised by Mattis and far too many others deserve the clear-eyed attention of every American. This is a must read article. These are factual truths that cannot be ignored as partisan or dismissed as fake news. “You have a rogue President of the United States, and we as a country are actually in serious danger.” — Retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey. McCaffrey was Daily Pnut’s publisher’s instructor at West Point and he has incredible respect for the Vietnam veteran and war hero. (Daily Beast)

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